Is there a difference between working for a lobbying firm and being a lobbyist?
Buzzfeed does not seem to think so. The website’s Washington bureau chief wrote a story at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday pegged to a press release from the far-left environmental group Greenpeace.
"Greenpeace Attacks Romney Aide on Climate Work" reads the headline, with the sub-headline of "Group accuses Press Secretary Andrea Saul, who previously worked as a lobbyist against climate change regulations, of skewing the candidate’s energy position."
Here is the lead of the original story in full, with sections charging that Saul was a lobbyist in bold:
Environmentalists are accusing Mitt Romney's press secretary of wielding influence over Mitt Romney’s positions on climate change, charging that her previous work for as [sic] a lobbyist working against regulatory controls on greenhouse gases has bled into her campaign work.
Andrea Saul, a veteran Republican staffer who as [sic] been with Romney’s campaign since the Spring of 2011, previously worked for the DCI Group, a powerhouse DC lobbying shop that has represented ExxonMobil and other major international corporations in the battles to avoid expensive environmental regulations.
The presence of former lobbyists – either for corporations or special interest groups on either side of the ideological aisle – is not uncommon in presidential campaign operations. Washington’s revolving door means that aides are constantly moving between campaigns, congressional offices, administration gigs and K Street.
But despite that reality, their presence in a campaign, particularly in key positions like Saul’s, often leads to questions about whether they or their former clients may have added influence on a candidate’s positions.
However, Saul was not a lobbyist, which has a specific legal definition and which requires an individual to register with the federal government. During her years at DCI Group, communications professional Saul was an "account executive," a position that is a mere few slots above entry level.
After being notified of the error by the Free Beacon, a sentence was added into the Buzzfeed Post: "Although she worked for the DCI [sic], Saul has never been a registered lobbyist." However, the sub-headline and body copy noted above have not been changed.
The Greenpeace "briefing" to which the Buzzfeed post was pegged—"Science Denial and Andrea Saul—Romney 2012 Campaign Spokesperson"—was more careful with terminology than the post itself. Greenpeace never identifies Saul as a lobbyist, instead charging this early twenty-something of helping "to orchestrate a multi-faceted, covert operation to undermine science, attack scientists, and confuse the public and reporters" by publicizing views other than those of Greenpeace.
Also not mentioned in the Buzzfeed post: Obama campaign Senior Adviser Broderick Johnson, who previously worked for "powerhouse lobbying firm" Bryan Cave LLP and represented TransCanada, the company trying to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Other Buzzfeed posts at the time of writing include "Old Navy Makes Our ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ Dreams Come True" and "The Most Adorable Shark Week Video Ever." The Free Beacon has yet to review these posts for factual accuracy.